Rise in county fire deaths despite fall in number of house fires

The number of fire deaths in the county is rising despite a decline in house fires, chiefs have said.

The report was discussed at the latest meeting of Shropshire Fire Authority’s strategy and resources committee.
The report was discussed at the latest meeting of Shropshire Fire Authority’s strategy and resources committee.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has vowed to improve engagement with those known to be at risk, after revealing a number of fatalities involved people who were people known to the service.

A meeting of the Fire Authority’s strategy and resources committee heard there were six fire-related deaths between April 2022 and January this year.

A report to members also noted that this figure did not include a death reported in a fire in Telford on February 11, which is still subject to investigation.

Guy Williams, assistant chief fire officer, told the committee that the rise was in contrast to the number of accidental dwelling fires, predicted to reach around 170 in 2022/23, down from 207 reported in 2018/19.

Mr Williams said: “Obviously our ambition is for no fire deaths and no serious injuries, but sadly that isn’t a reality.

“Currently the data is at six deaths. Five of those were accidental dwelling fires and one was a road traffic collision.

“Our number of fires isn’t increasing but our number of fire deaths has increased.”

Mr Williams said some of the deaths were of “people we have engaged with but maybe haven’t taken up our offer”.

Councillor Eric Carter, Fire Authority chair, said: “It’s always a very, very bad thing to see an increase in deaths.

“I think it’s fair to say because of the nature of where we are, being a rural community, it’s the elderly people in rural areas that are most at risk.

“It is something we need to target, I believe, to see how we can improve on this.

“Particularly elderly people who live on their own, particularly if they smoke, they are more at risk.

“If they live in a rural area it takes longer to get there and the risk of them passing away is higher.”

Assistant chief fire officer Dan Quinn said further risk factors in addition to smoking included hoarding, reduced mobility, living alone, and alcohol and drug dependency.

He said: “It’s something we are saddened by and something we are looking into.

“All of those deaths are subject to a serious event investigation. We are trying to build a picture on an individual basis on each of them.”

Mr Quinn added: “We work really hard at prevention and protection. We need to be more innovative and creative to engage with our communities.”

The figures were discussed as part of the service’s annual performance monitoring report.

The report also showed the total number of fires was expected to reach around 1,068 by the end of 2022/23, up from 1,043 last year.

Mr Williams said this partly reflected an increase in grass and outdoor fires over the “extremely hot summer”.

On the fall in accidental dwelling fires, he said: “The speed of the decline is reducing, so we appear to be at the bottom of that curve.

“We need to look at more innovative ways to reduce that further.”

The number of deliberate fires is expected to drop by eight per cent compared to last year, which Mr Williams said was “positive” to see, and the number of fires in regulated buildings is expected to be down 18 per cent.

Other areas subject to monitoring include the number of fires confined to room of origin, response times, and injuries to staff carrying out operational duties.

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